The new Kenzo Kalifornia bag, first glimpsed on the Paris runway last month, had its official coming-out party Wednesday night in the warehouse-like Berrics skatepark in a tucked-away corner of gritty downtown Los Angeles.
Kenzo's creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon are known for choosing locations with an air of discovery for their shows and events. The recent Kenzo store-opening party in Shanghai was held in a temple of Confucius, and the spring-summer 2014 runway show was held at Luc Besson's new Cite du Cinema film complex outside Paris.
In Los Angeles, Leon wanted something that was "super-industrial that people might not have been to before." When he found out about the indoor skate park, he thought it was a perfect fit, even though he doesn't skateboard himself. "It's a two-left-feet thing," he said. "Though I do roller skate and L.A. does have a lot of great roller skating rinks."
The Kalifornia bag is the first major bag launch for the designers. Eric Marechelle, CEO of the Paris-based, LVMH-owned Kenzo, had nothing but praise for the young designers who are building what he referred to as a "truly modern luxury brand." He said: "They have so much energy, it's a pleasure to build a company around them."
The soft, deconstructed handbags -- in shades such as "biker black" and "racer red" and punctuated by two chunky diagonal zippered pockets on each side (an homage to the iconic Perfecto biker jacket) -- were the undisputed shining stars of the early evening, proudly propped on the angled plywood skate ramps bookending the long dinner tables.
There were plenty of the other kind of stars in evidence too, starting with the event's hosts, Carrie Brownstein (the "Portlandia" star was clad in an eye-catching pink, sculpted dress from Kenzo's resort 2014 collection), China Chow, Rashida Jones ("Parks and Recreation"), Riley Keough and Gia Coppola.
Coppola told us she has known Lim and Leon "forever," and that they were actually the ones who gave her the first opportunity to direct a film -- a 2011 short titled "22," featuring the Reyn Spooner for Opening Ceremony collection. (BTW, Coppola's full-length directorial debut, the film "Palo Alto," is due out next year.)
Other celebrities spotted sitting down to dine at the long candlelit tables were Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Jacqui Getty, Rose McGown, Fergie and Brad Goreski.
But after dinner, when the dishes started being whisked quickly from the table -- along with the wine glasses and candelabras -- and men with power tools started unbolting the metal trim from the skate-ramp table ends, it became immediately clear something else was about to take center stage.
That turned out to be a quartet of Kenzo-clad skater girls, (Nora Vasconcellos, Eliana Sosco, Lizzie Armanto and Vanessa Torres, wearing the label's spring-summer 2014 "No Fish, No Nothing" knits and tees) who, accompanied by blasting music, rolled into the cavernous room, zipped up the ramps, zoomed down the tables and zig-zagged the length of the room, occasionally popping up into the air to perform gravity-defying tricks.
The moment felt quintessentially SoCal and perfectly underscored the point of view Lim and Leon (both of whom have L.A. roots) are bringing to the Paris-based brand.
The Kenzo Kalifornia, which officially launched this month, retails for $1,005 and can be purchased at a range of high-end stores (including Opening Ceremony in West Hollywood). It is expected to be available online through Net-a-Porter as of Friday.
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